Can COVID help us unlock the manufacturing conundrum?

Our Co-Chair Phil Wilbraham shares his insights into how we can use this opportunity to accelerate our tranformation and emerge as a better industry.

We are living through a very difficult time that is forcing us to think and act differently. Over the past weeks we have seen tremendous examples of the industry pulling together and working collaboratively. In particular we recognise the leadership shown by the CLC in ensuring the needs of the construction industry are clearly articulated to government.

This moment gives us time to reflect on what is important. We must use this time and opportunity to consider how we become a stronger and more resilient industry. There is certainly an opportunity for us to accelerate our transformation and emerge as a more effective sector.

We need to behave differently in this emerging world. We simply cannot have as many people on site. We need to embrace the digital technologies that will allow us to design, build and operate our built environment more effectively.

One of the areas that this crisis has highlighted to me is the disconnect between construction and the manufacturing base. Manufacturers are an important part of the construction industry, but we as a sector are very bad at engaging with those manufacturers. We know what we want, but we do not know how to get it.

We need to create an ecosystem of understanding, allowing manufacturers greater insight into how their products are used and installed. Clients, like me, need to drive this. Tier 1s and designers need to open-up a more effective dialogue with manufacturers at an earlier stage, rather than treating products as commodities.

Social distancing and the 2-metre rule are unlikely to go away in a hurry, so we need to think about how components can be installed, maximising the activity that can be carried out in controlled environments. This can only be done through greater efforts to understand the product and its application. Collaborating with manufacturers will allow them to innovate more effectively, developing the products that will really solve our problems.

Digitalisation has a crucial role to play in enabling us to collaborate and move to data-based decisions. We have many experienced people across the industry relying on their own knowledge and experience to make the right decisions, if we back their knowledge up with data, we can deliver significantly better outcomes.

This ecosystem of understanding will allow the right people with the right information to make the right decisions. Overcoming many of the issues that blight our industry’s reputation such as quality, price and schedule over-runs, poor working conditions etc. Initiatives such as Project 13 provide the framework to deliver the agile structures we need for effective delivery. Procure for Value provides the mechanism for clients to articulate and ask for what they genuinely want and need.

Let’s use this moment as a positive disruption to emerge as a better industry that delivers superior outcomes.

 

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